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A Louisiana millionaire has admitted to being the mastermind behind the botched kidnapping of his estranged wife, which resulted in the deaths of the two hired kidnappers.
Lawrence Michael Handley, 51, took a plea deal on July 26 for the 2017 kidnapping attempt, which involved not only the abduction of his wife Schanda Handley but also her teen daughter and their neighbor, Michelle Chaisson. He pleaded guilty to three counts of second-degree kidnapping, the 15th Judicial Assistant District Attorney’s office said in a statement.
“Lawrence Handley hired Sylvester Bracey and Arsenio Haynes, both from Jackson, Mississippi, to kidnap Handley’s estranged wife from her Lafayette house,” the press release states. “An adult neighbor and Schanda Handley’s 14-year-old daughter were at the house when the two men forced their way in.”
The duo handcuffed Chaisson and the teenager and left them in the house and then drove Schanda away in a van.
As two kidnappers then drove Schanda toward the defendant’s camp in Mississippi, Iberville sheriff deputies attempted to stop the van for driving erratically. As a result, “the kidnappers fled off the interstate, turned down a dead end gravel road, and were hemmed in by law enforcement at the end of the road," according to the district attorney's office.
Feeling trapped, the two men tried to flee by water.
“Both kidnappers then attempted to escape by swimming into a canal, and both drowned,” the press release states. “The victim was rescued from the van by the Iberville deputies.”
The Lafayette Police Department found video of Lawrence both planning the kidnapping, purchasing the handcuffs and renting the van.
He originally pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity but was found mentally competent to stand trial in 2018, the Lafayette Daily Advertiser reported at the time.
“The plea resolves the case without the victims having to relive their ordeal,” 15th Judicial Assistant District Attorney Alan Haney said in a statement. "The state looks forward to presenting additional evidence at the sentencing hearing."
Lawrence made millions through launching companies that sold vitamins, energy supplements, and calcium creams. He also founded addiction treatment centers, according to The Advertiser. Despite his success, he was convicted in 2005 for giving a fraudulent $22,000 check to a charter airplane company.
He filed for divorce from his wife in April 2017, the same year of the botched kidnapping. During that volatile year, Lawrence alleged in court that Schanda attacked and threatened him and that she even hired a hitman to kill him. She was charged with destroying property and shooting into a wall at the couple’s camp in March of that year but a judge later acquitted her. Meanwhile, Schanda claimed that Lawrence installed a tracking device on her phone and spyware on her computer and sent her threatening texts before the abduction, warning her of an “Armageddon.”
“We will take her first and let you suffer for awhile before putting you out of your misery” one of those texts allegedly read.
Lawrence faces a potential sentence 15 to 35 years at hard labor, according to the district attorney's office. His sentencing hearing has not yet been set.
“We just feel it's a fair result. It's a fair resolution of the case. Mr. Hanley was able to accept responsibility," his attorney Kevin Stockstill told the Advertiser. "Hopefully it gives the victims some closure and doesn't put them through a trial, which would have been a pretty stressful event. Having them relive these events was not something we wanted to do."
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